Esch’s fascination with the myth of Medea in particular suggests several things about her personality, interests, preoccupations, and hopes.
Concerning her personality, it’s possible to argue that Esch sees Medea’s emotional, willful, ultimately resilient personality in her own. Esch compares her stormy relationship with Manny to Medea’s fraught romance with Jason. As with Medea, Esch feels like she sacrificed practically everything to be with Manny. Manny, like Jason, could be described as ungrateful and apathetic to his partner’s self-abnegation. When Esch tells Manny she’s pregnant, he abandons her the way that Jason leaves Medea out in the cold.
Similar to Medea, Esch’s personality doesn’t permit her to take Manny’s cruel indifference lying down. She physically confronts Manny. She slaps him and then scratches him across his face with her fingernails. She compares her attack on Manny to Medea wielding the knife.
The knife allusion leads to a key difference between Medea and Esch. To get back at Jason for leaving her for a princess, Medea, according to some accounts, slays the children that they had together with a knife. Esch does not terminate the baby that results from her relationship with Manny. This suggests that Esch has confidence in herself and in her future. She has the will and strength to bring up her baby. She also has a solid support system and therefore doesn’t need Manny. She has her father, her brothers, and Big Henry to help her raise her child.
When it comes to interests and preoccupations, think about how Esch’s interest in Medea reflects her intelligence and her love of reading. At the start of the story, Esch mentions how she got an A in English because she answered a difficult question about William Faulkner’s equally difficult novel As I Lay Dying. While Medea serves as the focal point, it’s clear that Esch can thoughtfully engage with much more than Greek mythology.